DRAGONS ARE partial to a bit of apprentice meat so, Sodov, you must take care of your three young 'uns.
As chief sorcerer of the castle you have your own reasons for seducing the dragons into the locale, but just remember not to let the dragons make a meal of your assistants. After all, who would stir the cauldron of power on the ground floor of the castle while you shout the magic word to turn the dragons into gold?
That word - which I am under pain of death not to reveal - is aimed at the dragons using a cross-hair cursor and your joystick or keyboard controls. Pressing fire - if you're on target - will transmute the dragon into a fountain of gold.
You must destroy as many of the creatures as you can for two reasons. Each time you kill a dragon more gold is scattered upon the ground. Also, if dragons escape your spells they will start to lift the castle's portcullis and one of them will storm in to seize the hapless and defenceless tyro.
Surprisingly, you must let this kidnap occur if you want to gather the gold which has accumulated outside the castle. You boost your spell power by travelling to the top of one of the towers. Once boosted to a full 50 spell points you can go to the ground floor of the castle and wait for the dragon raid.
At any moment a dragon will rush in, grab your apprentice and storm out. Don't spell him while he's in the castle as the portcullis will shut and you'll have lost your chance to gather gold for another round.
If you can stay your impatience, follow the dragon into the outside walls and lay a mine for him by positioning the spell cursor so that he walks over it. The gold flies and the apprentice is free for you to take back to the castle. Quick, though, as the dragons have fiery tongues and there is a chance of recapture. If you're lucky - or skilful - you will be able to pick up some gold dust from the ground on the way.
Once you have a certain amount of gold you can progress to the next level of the game in which the dragons change colour and get more nimble on their feet. At that pace you can do little else but concentrate on the attack from the battlements of the castle. Beware the little red spider which can enter the castle under the portcullis and attack you at anytime.
The spider is an undead creature and requires power to sustain its grubby little existence. It steals its power from you and forces you to replace your energy with a trip to the tower.
Energy is also lost during sudden thunderstorms when the game's token cloud shoots lightning at Sodov. Again, because this game is full of pretty gold and nothing so loathsome as death, all you need to do is take yet another trip up the tower.
The game finishes either when all your apprentices have been kidnapped by the dragons, or when you have become a fried magus. In keeping with its magical attitude of not killing off sorcerers or tyros, the game does not have to be restarted. You are reincarnated with no power, no gold and a zero score.
Sodov the Sorcerer, despite having only two screens, is one of the best games I have seen this year - either in the full price or budget range. The graphics are smooth and entertaining, the concept is new to the Spectrum and the plot has at least three strands to it. It is an enchanting game of which you are unlikely to get tired.
Joystick: Kempston, Interface II